Seoul, South Korea, 15 August 2022 -- “Leave your bags in the front and we will have breakfast inside,” said Fr Dominic Seong sdb, Provincial Secretary of the Salesian Province of Korea as we walked into a café. “It is very safe and no one will touch your bags”, joined in Fr Samuel Yu, Social Communications Delegate. “We will be at the arrival hall at 7.45am” said Fr Samuel and the two of them were on schedule to pick me up at Incheon Airport, Korea. The serenity and calmness of the place is very different to my daily experience in Papua New Guinea.
Gentleness, discipline, joy and commitment is evident as one interacts with people. I was delighted to meet Fr Timothy Choi, Provincial, Fr Vaclav Klement, former Regional and Councillor for the Missions, and Fr Andrew Jang, member of the Social Communications Commission at Provincial House. Gratitude to the Salesians of the Province of Korea for their warm welcome and gentle spirit.
With COVID-19 restrictions lifted, travel has resumed. Face to face meetings and celebrations are back on track. The SIGNIS World Congress 2022, postponed for some time now, will run from 15 - 19 August, 2022. 15 August is an important day for the country as we commemorate freedom from Japanese rule and the birth of the Republic of Korea in 1945. We also remember freedom from British Rule in India on 15 August 1947. But more so, we commemorate the Solemnity of the Assumption of Our Blessed Mother, a freedom from sin to a life of grace. The theme aptly chosen for the Congress is: ‘Peace in the digital world’. The study sessions will deal with – hyper connectivity, fake news, protection of our common home, etc. The speakers are from different countries across the globe. It will be a hybrid conference of face-to-face meetings and virtual conferences, a metaverse platform opening in a cyber world, a mixed-media conference to be transmitted via YouTube, Zoom, Metaverse & Television. The links are stated below.
Am now in self quarantine as required by the authorities. This has given me the possibility to share important issues, vital for our world today, but more so ponder on them and look at ways to benefit our people in Papua New Guinea. Here are a few thoughts.
This highly developed country is ranked as the seventh highest country on the Human Development Index in Asia and Oceania. The literacy rate is 100% where every child is educated. It boasts of an excellent medical service, with the third highest life-expectancy in the world. It has the fastest internet connectivity and a superb high speed railway network. Its economy ranks 12th in the world and 9th in its imports and exports.
The Salesians of the Province of Korea are contributing to education for young people with schools, both in the academic and technical fields. Youth centres flourish giving young people an opportunity to develop and share their talent in music (K-pop) song, dance, games, soccer, basketball and baseball. Video games have our Gen Z captivated. “The flashing red and green lights on the Zebra Crossing are for those who are glued to their screens”, said Fr Dominic.
The younger generation of young people speak English as well as other foreign languages, a tribute to their hard work and dedication. The flight attendants could switch to good English as soon as they noticed a foreigner. The atmosphere is competitive, diligent and despite the lack of natural resources the economy is flourishing. The people have a pleasant character, are passionate and have a strong personality. The faith is vibrant and the Catholics are generous in supporting missionary work.
The country has a population of a little over 50 million, with the lowest fertility rate in the whole world. Dealing with anxiety and stress is not an easy task and the Salesians are doing what they can to lower the suicide rate amongst young people. Secondly, while the country has progressed at a fast pace economically, the same cannot be said about gender equality, where changing the mindset on the division of labour and roles of the sexes requires time and effort.
On 14 August after our registration we made a prayerful visit to the Jeoldusan martyrs’ shrine, spent time at the largest book store and took a lovely walk in the company of Fr Klement and Fr Andrew, which enabled me to catch a glimpse of Korea.
Our young people in Papua New Guinea can benefit a lot from education. More so, we need discipline, dedication and determination to work together for good. With the abundance of resources in Papua New Guinea, the country can, with the right move and a strong political will, put words into action for the good and the benefit of all.
We look forward to welcoming Br Peter Hong sdb, Salesian missionary from Korea, who is soon to come over to Papua New Guinea.
Here is an invitation to all who would like to join in the celebration online:
Here are the links to the English Channel:
- [Live] SIGNIS WORLD CONGRESS 2022 SEOUL – 16 AUG, Day 1 (Opening Ceremony/Session 1)
- [Live] SIGNIS WORLD CONGRESS 2022 SEOUL – 16 AUG, Day 1 (International Journalist Forum)
- [Live] SIGNIS WORLD CONGRESS 2022 SEOUL – 17 AUG, Day 2 (Korean Culture & Korean Catholic/Session 2)
- [Live] SIGNIS WORLD CONGRESS 2022 SEOUL – 17 AUG, Day 2 (International Youth Forum)
- [Live] SIGNIS WORLD CONGRESS 2022 SEOUL – 18 AUG, Day 3 (Session 3/Closing Ceremony)